Zanu PF, MDC hawks work to derail dialogue
This comes as former South African President Thabo Mbeki — who was in the country late last year to mediate between Mnangagwa and Chamisa — is said to be becoming increasingly frustrated, as he waits for a signal from Harare to return to Zimbabwe to resume his efforts.
It also comes despite both Mnangagwa and Chamisa having previously and separately made encouraging statements about their much-needed tête-à-tête — but ultimately not making good on this, to help extricate the country from its worsening economic rot.
Well-placed sources in Zanu PF and the MDC told the Daily News On Sunday yesterday that hardliners on both sides of the political divide were opposed to the talks “for selfish, personal interests”.
“President Mbeki is up against it as senior officials around both ED (Mnangagwa) and Wamba (Chamisa) are not enthusiastic about the idea. You see, the unfortunate reality is that the chaos that is consuming the country benefits some political elites, who stand to lose a lot on both sides if sanity prevails,” a Zanu PF bigwig said.
“It would be wrong of me to pretend that all the problems are on the Zanu PF side on this matter. The fact of the matter is that we also have wolves in sheep’s skin on our side (MDC).
“Some of our comrades are very sly and talk with forked tongues. They are doing their damnedest to frustrate the president (Chamisa) on these talks, while pretending to be his biggest cheerleaders.
“Remember too that just as is the case with Zanu PF, a few of our own people are benefiting from the current madness and also want to patent the struggle for them only,” an MDC office-bearer chipped in.
Analysts who spoke to the Daily News On Sunday concurred with this view, adding that politicians in both parties were “protecting their turf”.
“There are indeed hardliners and soft-liners in the two parties. The hardliners in Zanu PF view Chamisa as someone who cannot be trusted.
“The MDC … has also taken a hardline stance by rejecting the win by Mnangagwa, and as long as that view holds … there will likely not be any dialogue.
“But the hardliners’ position is unrealistic and I don’t see the two parties engaging unless this is resolved,” University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer Eldred Masunungure said.
“Post the November 2017 coup, there was no coalition government even though all parties had united in removing (the late former president Robert) Mugabe from power.
“But that is what happens in a patronage system … people will protect their turf.
“If you bring the MDC into government, some Zanu PF bigwigs will lose their positions … which undermines efforts between the party and the MDC for engagement,” Masunungure added.
Another political analyst, Maxwell Saungweme, also blamed both Zanu PF and the MDC for stalling the mooted direct talks.
“Chamisa and those around him may fear that they may lose legitimacy … by being co-opted into government, and that the MDC will lose its opposition space to new parties that may emerge.
“This could be one of the driving factors for Chamisa’s team to talk ‘talks’, but sometimes behave differently.
“For Mnangagwa and his team, their fears could be around Chamisa currying favour with the military once he is in, say, a unity government, or the fear that some elements in Zanu PF will say Mnangagwa atengesa (he has sold out),” Saungweme said.
Namibia-based scholar Admire Mare said Zanu PF and the MDC were suffering from “a crisis of expectations”.
“Remember that these parties are coming from very extreme positions, and so climbing down to the negotiation table will take time and a bit of gentle chiding on the part of the mediator. Both parties agree they hold the keys to the resolution of the political and economic impasse in the country, but there are hardliners behind the scenes who are exerting pressure,” Mare said.
As if to further confirm the hardline positions among hawks in both parties, Zanu PF secretary for legal affairs Paul Mangwana told the Daily News on Sunday yesterday that no political dialogue should happen outside the Polad platform.
Mangwana, whose views are shared by many of the old guard in the ruling party, also said Chamisa was wasting his time seeking the intervention of outsiders in the affairs of the country.
“Our president has told him (Chamisa) point blank that he is free to join Polad to discuss any problems that we have as a country.
“So, we don’t see any reason why he has to travel to South Africa or Sadc countries. We do not have a crisis in Zimbabwe. We have economic challenges that we are resolving. We were given five years (through the 2018 elections) and we are in those five years where we are resolving our challenges because there is no country that has no challenges,” Mangwana said.
Mnangagwa has been at loggerheads with Chamisa since the hotly-disputed July 2018 elections, which the youthful opposition leader alleged were rigged in favour of the Zanu PF leader.
But Mnangagwa’s victory was later upheld by the Constitutional Court which ruled that Chamisa had failed to provide evidence that he had won the polls.
Since then, Mnangagwa — who was initially feted like a king when he replaced Mugabe in 2017 following a popular military coup — has found himself and his government facing criticism over their stewardship of the country.
Although both Mnangagwa and Chamisa have previously said that they are interested in dialogue, nothing concrete has happened despite those encouraging statements.
On his part, Mnangagwa has remained resolute in his demands that any talks with Chamisa should be held under the platform of the political actors’ dialogue — where he regularly holds meetings with leaders of fringe opposition parties, who a large cross-section of Zimbabweans has dismissed as tokens, particularly as the youthful MDC boss is not part of this structure.
Chamisa himself has repeatedly ruled out joining Polad — demanding instead direct dialogue with Mnangagwa.
Last week Chamisa flew to South Africa for a meeting with Mbeki in a bid to revive hopes for the mooted dialogue with Mnangagwa.
Chamisa said he was in that country to remind its leadership on the urgency of Zimbabwe’s political and economic situation.
“For us to be able to deal with the acrimony … disharmony and disagreement between us and … Mnangagwa, there is need to have a credible negotiator.
“We think that the avenue and platform created by Mbeki will go a long way to creating this conversation. It is now more urgent than ever before because the situation in the country has really taken a nosedive. Things are going south in many ways,” Chamisa told the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC).
At the same time, Chamisa is under pressure from hardliners within the MDC who want him to take a more radical approach against Mnangagwa to force the Zanu PF leader to act on the worsening rot.
Insiders told the Daily News on Sunday that the hardliners in the MDC wanted rolling mass demonstrations as a matter of urgency to force Mnangagwa to the negotiating table.
Chamisa is said to have agreed to these demands should the planned national dialogue fail to take place by May this year.
“There is no way we can go against the principal, but it is clear that Zanu PF will not negotiate itself out of power. There is no way the talks will make Mnangagwa agree to electoral reforms. Our radical leaders like Job Sikhala are already facing treason trial because they voiced the concerns of the people. The point is we cannot go on until 2023 in this situation,” a top MDC official told the Daily News on Sunday yesterday.